President's Pen - April 2014
Dear Members of New Zealand’s Baseball Community,
We are now at the business end of the season with national and club tournaments wrapped up and our representative teams beginning to step up their trainings and final selection processes for the upcoming overseas competitions in July and August.
In the meantime, we have had a number of important milestones, initiatives and additions to our national body that we believe will alter the trajectory of baseball in a positive direction for many years to come, including the following developments:
Former Executive Vice-President and General Manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers Major League Baseball organization Fred Claire has been appointed as Special Advisor for Baseball New Zealand.
During his long tenure at the Dodgers, Claire served the team as a publicity director; vice president of public relations, promotions and marketing; Executive Vice President in charge of day-to-day operations; and Executive Vice President and General Manager in charge of player personnel. Along-time mentor for many executives in the professional and international sports communities, Baseball New Zealand are excited to have Claire’s assistance to take the sport to the next level.
Last month, Ryan travelled to Tokyo after meetings in Sydney to stand before the national press corps of Japan to announce the intent of famed former Japanese professional, WBC and Olympic pitcher Naoyuki Shimizu to become one of our national coaches, specifically working on pitching development with Riki Paewai.
It was a major announcement that brought a great deal of attention to our programme, and while final negotiations around terms are ongoing, we fully expect to see Coach Shimizu returning to Auckland with his family in the coming months as they look to settle for many years in the country—a huge coup for the sport to attract such a world class talent to our programme.
Veteran baseball Athletic Trainer/Physical Therapist/MLB Rehab Coordinator for Pittsburgh Pirates Erwin Valencia has been in New Zealand again recently and our organisation has finalised his position as Director of Medical and Performance Services for Baseball New Zealand, while local trainers Daisuke Hiro and Steve Hong will serve as Rehabilitation Specialist and Performance Specialist respectively, ensuring that New Zealand’s ballplayers of all ages will be better prepared on and off the field as they attempt to achieve both team and individual goals in their sports careers.
Former pitcher in the San Diego Padres organization and member of New Zealand’s Diamondblacks that competed in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers in 2012 Riki Paewai has been hired by Baseball New Zealand to work with current National Development Officer Dan Tan. This gives the nation two top tier coaches to ensure our players and coaches receive the training and instruction they need to increase their skill set on the field. Riki will focus on the nation’s young pitchers and also serve as the pitching coach on the nation’s first ever 12U Ripken National Baseball Team that will be led by Tan.
The Baltimore Orioles have assured Baseball New Zealand that they’ll provide an opportunity for two of New Zealand’s coaches to spend several weeks with their organization in Spring Training or Instructional Baseball in Arizona to upgrade their skills. Baseball NZ is working on a similar partnership with a second MLB organization as well to ensure that as many coaches across the nation receive high level training in the United States each year.
Additionally, all coaches have been appointed for the 12U and 15U National teams. Congratulations to Jamie Wilson, Randy Yard, Dave Bishop, Adam Woolston and team manager Tim Oliff for the U15 team and Dan Tan, Riki Paewai, Nick Stanley and team manager Jackson Speir for their selection to prepare and lead our youth teams in July-August in Mexico and Maryland, USA.
A Zero Tolerance Policy document has been adopted by the Board to improve behaviour on and off the diamond. All clubs are encouraged to read the document and implement this policy. Warren has returned recently from umpiring in Australia’s State Championships, and continues to foster strong relationships with the experienced group across the ditch to strengthen our own team of umpires. It’s hoped that Warren may secure one of the umpire positions in the 15U World Championships in Mexico later this year.
Youth National Championships
A successful National Youth Championship tournament took place Fri 7th through to Sun 9th March at Crossfield Reserve with some very exciting action on the diamond amongst the age groups.
It was great to have teams from Wellington and Canterbury make the trip for the first time at the U13 age grades to compete against Auckland’s best.
Thanks to Dan Tan, Riki Paewai, Tim Olliff, Jackson Speir, Danny McGrath, Gareth Hooton and their team plus Warren van Rooyen and Beverley McCabe and their team of top umpires and scorekeepers that made the tournament a success.
Howick Pakuranga, facing stiff competition, was able to take home the championship in all three age grades.
NZ Secondary Schools Championship
Our Secondary Schools National Championships was also a great success with the best college-level baseball the nation has ever witnessed taking place at Crossfield Reserve in Glendowie.
All six colleges put competitive teams on the field with deep rosters, and One Tree Hill College was able to just get past Glendowie College in the championship game 5-1.
Interestingly, the two colleges that wound up in the final both have baseball academies at their respective schools.
Men's National Championship
The Men’s National Championship was an open event this year which also drew six teams from around the nation, including a return from Canterbury and their Redbacks men’s team, while Wellington once again sent up a strong team anchored by a number of representative players and former softball players.
The deepest roster on paper once again belonged to three-time defending champion Howick Pakuranga who have unquestionably developed the largest number of collegiate and professional baseball players of any club in the nation
However, the rise of North Shore City Baseball Club and talented teams at each age grade, plus some healthy regular season competition between HP and North Shore, ensured that this final would be a close one, and that’s exactly what it was. North Shore jumped out to a lead mid-way through the game, and despite a valiant fight-back from the experienced HP senior team, North Shore held on for a tight 9-7 championship victory.
Impressively, the award winners came from three teams. Best batter went to former WBC standout Sam Bishop from Wellington; the best pitcher came from the arguably the most pleasant surprise of the entire tournament, Counties Baseball Club, and their ace pitcher Randy Yard, who played in the Cincinnati Reds system; and the MVP came from the champion North Shore Club. Ryota Okumoto, who did it with the bat and his arm, winning the final game and hitting a clutch home run in the process.
Congratulations to all the participants for the incredible level of baseball that is rising each year, and once again a genuine thank you to everyone who assisted with the season and the tournaments.
MLB Opening Games in Sydney
Exciting times down under for baseball with the MLB Opening Day game(s) of the 2014 season being held in Sydney between the LA Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
A delegation led by Baseball NZ and that included the top officials from ATEED, the United States Consul General Office and Eden Park, as well as various private sector leaders, attended the event to meet and explore possibilities for New Zealand.
The group presented to MLB’s top officials out of New York, and then met for nearly two hours with the ownership group and senior management of the Arizona Diamondbacks organisation. The potential for a unique and progressive relationship looks bright for our programme.
Ryan recently returned from a week in Japan, where he was hosted by friends of the programme, and he was able to investigate a multitude of opportunities for support from various teams, organisations and individuals across Tokyo and Osaka. Ryan met with the management of the Tokyo Giants and Hanshin Tigers professional baseball clubs, as well as with the leadership of the Nippon Professional Baseball League, and paid courtesy calls to New Zealand’s Ambassador to Japan and other distinguished individuals in an effort to strengthen relationships between our nations and baseball programmes.
Baseball NZ have retained the services of Photosport, an award-winning sports picture agency, to capture events and occasions which can be used to help us promote our sport to the nation and the world. You will see them at all major media announcements, national tournaments and events, and everywhere inbetween. Take a minute to have a look on their website, www.photosport.co.nz, where photos can be purchased.
World Children’s Baseball Fair
A good number of applications were received by players to attend the WCBF and 5 successful players and a chaperone will be getting together with past participants to learn about this incredible baseball and life experience, and Baseball NZ will be tracking and supporting their journey the entire way.
World Championship Events
This is the first year in the sport’s history that we’ll be sending a youth national baseball team to a world championship event, but it will not just be one team participating in such a prestigious event—it will be two.
15U National Team – IBAF 15U World Championship, La Paz, Mexico
Our 15U team was to be the host team for the Oceania 15U Championships early this month, but Australia’s withdraw due to having too much on their plate with the MLB Series, forced the IBAF to decide on naming two teams to represent the region, something we’ve lobbied for over the years, having two representatives from our region. Australia and New Zealand were granted the positions as the two top ranked nations in the Oceania region, and the 20-player team will be selected by 1 May. They will depart in late July to La Paz, Mexico to play against the best players and nations in the world.
12U National Team – Ripken World Series, Aberdeen, Maryland, USA
The nation’s first ever Ripken National Team will also be selected by 1 May, and will also bring together New Zealand’s best players from here and abroad to represent the nation in this globally televised and prestigious international world championship baseball event for players who are 12 and under. Baseball New Zealand has established a close relationship with the Ripken family, a relationship that has led to this exciting annual opportunity for our nation’s best ballplayers. They will depart via Honolulu in early August for this tournament in Aberdeen, Maryland, on the east coast of the United States.
Baseball New Zealand continues to work on additional sponsorship arrangements that will assist all regions and clubs, and also signed a contract with Frucor and Gatorade recently to ensure better pricing for all events and club tuck shops along the way. SKYCITY Hotel continues to be the official hotel of Baseball New Zealand, and more sponsors are soon to be put in place.
Baseball New Zealand, in conjunction with Disney and Hoyt’s, will be showing the New Zealand premiere of ‘Million Dollar Arm’, the true story of two young cricket players from India who were a part of a TV promotion and eventually signed professional baseball contracts with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The date will be in mid-June and will be announced shortly, along with other details. We hope everyone will support this great baseball night that will be held at Sylvia Park.
Enjoy the extended summer weather as we dig into an offseason that promises to be as busy for many as our summer baseball season.
Regards and best wishes,